Horizon Zero Dawn Review
New game IPs and new franchises are always exciting, but understandably terrifying at the same time. There is so much that could go wrong with new ideas, characters, and game play mechanics, but at the same time, so many possibilities to create something new in a marketplace of spin offs and copy cats.
While game play and mechanics wise, Zero Horizon Dawn is nothing new, the idea that Guerrilla and Sony might have a franchise on their hands with new protagonist Aloy is incredibly exciting.
To be frank, Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t really a new concept or a whole new way of playing a game, despite its unique characteristics. You could easily argue that Guerilla grabbed things that worked well in other games, played around with how they would roll them into this title, and shipped it to retail. If that was the end goal, congratulations: you made it. I can honestly say that Horizon took the best of Far Cry, Assassins Creed, and perhaps a bit of Monster Hunter, and produced a game with very few flaws.
And lets face it, who doesn’t want to be a bow wielding bad ass?
New Character Shines Bright
We’ve had strong female leads in the past – think Lara Croft here – but they don’t come along that frequently. Usually the use of a female lead in a game is when players are given the option between two generic characters, one male one female, which instantly strips the character of any type of unique personality. In Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerilla gave us Aloy, a character that I generally cared about throughout my adventure. From her young roots as an outcast – born outside the tribe, with no named mother or father – to attempting to prove herself in the Proving, there is a lot to like about this character, and lots of room for character growth.
I would argue that Guerilla has put too much time and effort into creating and molding Aloy to not give her a franchise of her own. I think PS4 owners are going to LOVE playing as Aloy – outside of the few who decide to complain about no male option – and since the game is so great, future titles is not out of the question.
Grabbing What Works
Remember how much fun it was to use Eagle Vision in Assassins Creed to survey and error, tag enemies, and find targets? Well, that is here in Horizon Zero Dawn, but taken to a new level. Crafting is a big part of Horizon Zero Dawn – similarities to Far Cry and Tomb Raider which we will touch on later – so obviously finding the parts you need is incredibly important. The world is teeming with mechanical beasts that have everything from wire to important canisters that contain the ingredients for fire arrows. Every enemy in the game can be tagged, and as you scan them, you will be able to pinpoint weak points on the creatures, as well as pinpoint specific resources that you can get from them. This is incredibly important when you get to a point where you need to decide whether to tussle with a larger, incredibly aggressive machine or not.
Another reason to tag enemy is to see their movement patterns. Very few enemies actually have a set path, but some of the most annoying – Watchers, who protect large herds of somewhat docile machines – always walk on a set path. Knowing where they are going will aide in quick takedowns and strategic maneuvers. So, we have Eagle Vision in a sense, but a much better version of it.
If you’ve played either Far Cry or Tomb Raider, the crafting elements in Horizon Zero Dawn will be very familiar to you. Within your arsenal wheel – brought up when tapping L1 – you can quickly craft new arrows for your assortment of bows and new ropes / ‘bombs’ for your assortment of trap casting items. Deeper into your menu however, and you will find new bags to craft – lets you hold more arrows, traps, resources, etc. – and numerous modifiers to add to your weapons. All of this is remencient on past games in the same genre, which will not only give most fans a sense of knowledgeable comfort, but is also practical and easy to understand.
I feel like this is one of those, “if it isn’t broke, why fix it?” scenarios.
Outside the Main Quest
Completing the main quest in Horizon Zero Dawn will reap it’s own benefits – generally, lots of experience and unique increases to your various characters stats (melee, defense, etc.) – but the game is full of things that will easily distract you. Again, the similarities to other titles are all over the place, but nothing that is out of place. Collectibles are constant across all action RPG titles, so looking for the metal flowers and cleaning out corruption zones shouldn’t feel that different, nor like a rip off either.
The one things I’m really happy to see is Bandit Camps, which you could compare to fortresses and camps in the Far Cry series. Unlike those games, however, I feel like you have so many more options at your disposal on how you might complete these challenges. Options. That is what Guerilla succeeds at here, and consumers will be really happy.
Open World, Open Choices
How you tackle Horizon Zero Dawn is really up to you. Understandably, the further you venture into the world the harder the enemies become, keeping you from exploring everything this huge world has to offer unless you are prepared. However, if you wanted to run from Tall Neck to Tall Neck – think of vantage points in Assassins Creed or towers in Far Cry, but these ones move! – you totally could.
How you tackle any one challenge is really up to you, whether you will use stealth mechanics, go in wielding your powerful spear, taking over machines to fight for you, or by using the environment to your advantage, I never felt that two battles were alike. After a while, you will ultimately develop a preference. For myself, for example, I love to find a high place, pull out my most powerful bow, and see what havoc I can create. If I’m up against a pack of Grazers and a few Watchers, this typically works really well.
The variety in this game is what will keep you entertained for your 40 hour adventure. With over 20 machines to find and research, there is plenty for players to see and do. Aloy is the perfect companion for this quest, and although a lot of the dialogue is laughably cheesey, the overall story is pretty good. The best part of Horizon Zero Dawn is that it creates an actual challenge for players, which stretches across all difficult modes. Obviously, venturing into an area that vastly out levels you will lead to your death, you no matter what the circumstance; however, even in ‘safe’ environments, things can go very wrong, very quick.
Ultimately, though, it is the machines that make Horizon Zero Dawn so unique. In this post apocalyptic world, the variety of machines and the unpredictability of them is what makes every combat situation unique. Grazers are a great example of this: generally, once you begin picking off some out of a herd, they will bolt. On occasion, however, one will charge you. I guarantee you that it will be very unexpected. Almost every machine in the game will have animal like qualities borrow from real animals you’d find in the world today, whether you are looking at the wildebeest like Striders, or the alligator like machines, the Snapmaws, who will swing their tail at you like a real alligator would. This attention to detail makes Horizon Zero Dawn unique from its competitors.
I could go on and on about Horizon Zero Dawn, and this review has only scratched the surface of what Guerilla has packed into this game. If you love action RPG titles, and want to wield a number of amazing bows, grabbing and playing through Horizon Zero Dawn is a no brainer. There are almost no flaws throughout this game, making it one of the best Sony exclusives, even topping Uncharted for me!